And now for another entry in my continuing series, why you should take notes on the books you read! Yeah, um, so. It’s been a while since I read The Diviners. And, I kind of don’t remember a lot about it. Fortunately, Rena read it too and she remembers a lot more, so I had her give me a little primer on it last night. Sounds like a really good book!
OK, seriously – here’s what I remember. The most important aspect of the book to me was the overall atmosphere of the piece. The genuine creepiness of Naughty Jack (especially when the murders are described from the perspective of the victim-to-be). The slowing unfolding mystery. The interesting take on magic. I just got caught up in the whole thing. And though I don’t have examples (since it’s been awhile since I read it), Libba Bray is always an intensely great prose stylist, and I remember loving the language of the book.
On to your complaints. I have heard many, many people complaining, as you said that Bray “overdid it on the slang and the various references to things that were going on in the twenties,” including this hilarious send-up from Book Smugglers, which Beth Fama alerted me to:
As I told Ana in an email, the level of forced detail in this book would be the equivalent of some far future author writing about our particular day and age as follows: Thea booted up her slim Macbook Pro and opened the Google Chrome internet browser to check her gmail – Google Mail – account, and then becan to gchat – Google Chat – with her BFF – best friend forever – Ana. “OMG dude, the rager last night was so ridic I cant belive how #lame every1 was.” Thea opened another tab in the browser and pulled up Facebook, Liking a series of posts in her newsfeed before turning to her iPhone and skimming the tweets – from social media network Twitter – that kept popping up alerts on her handheld device. You get the picture.
The thing about this parody is that I’ve read contemporary books that aren’t too far off from this. Not to say that that’s a good thing, but this style of writing is out there, even for current trends that readers should be expected to know. When we’re talking about a teen readership who probably does not know much if anything about the 20s, I think it becomes a lot more acceptable. I was especially interested that you had that reaction since you said that you liked Dodger, which takes very much the same tack, but for 1850s London.
A word on character development. You said “Did Evie really change much from the first to the last?”, and I know that is what many people mean by character development – that the main character(s) grow and change in some meaningful way. For me, while I love a good character arc and seeing a character grow, personally as a reader I don’t find that sort of thing necessary, or at least it depends on the type of story being told. I use the term character development not to mean the the character herself changes, but that the author “develops” the character in a rich and full way. And in that sense, Evie and just about everyone else in the book are well developed characters–completely believable with many levels of depth.
As for theme – I think Bray’s ultimate and abiding theme is the place of women in society. That’s what her first trilogy was about, and what Beauty Queens was about. The great thing about The Diviners is that she has chosen a historical period which is perfect for discussing women’s rights and responsibilities, since it was a constant topic of conversation among people of the period, to the point that many people were saying things that would seem radical even today.
Why is this in my top 5. To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about it that much. I thought – it’s the new Libba Bray, I loved it, of course it’s top 5. I’d have to reread it to make a more compelling case than that, but I hope some of these thoughts help a little.